Students take drones – and ethics – to new heights

July 21, 2022

By Hannah Beaudry '21

Saint Anselm College hosted sixteen high school students for an on-campus program where they learned how to build, program, and fly drones, along with taking part in ethical discussions about how modern technology affects our daily lives.

The students from New Hampshire and Massachusetts worked in teams throughout the week-long camp to understand the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, along with getting hands-on instruction on building, programming, and flying drones. 

The camp, which ran from July 10-15, was hosted by Center for Ethics in Society, the Saint Anselm College Computer Science Department, and STEM-ED. It received widespread media attention, including front page coverage from the New Hampshire Union Leader and a story by New Hampshire’s ABC affiliate, WMUR.

“The primary motivation for the camp was to introduce students in the New England area to drone technology, especially those who might not otherwise get the chance,” said Dr. Micheal Huelsman, the camp’s director and a professor in the computer science department.

The campers attended classes to learn about the mechanics and coding behind drones, and received hands-on experience flying drones on the College’s Alumni Quad. Throughout the week they also discussed the ethics of artificial intelligence and drones, watching I, Robot (2004) and discussing its themes and central questions with Dr. Josh Tepley, a professor of philosophy. 

“Our camp focuses on making sure that the next generation of problem solvers think a little more carefully about the things they invent,” Dr. Huelsman said.

Lydia Bloodsworth
Lydia Bloodsworth, Saint Anselm College

The high school students were excited to learn about coding and drones in this camp setting. Lydia Bloodsworth, a rising Junior at Brockton High School, said how happy she was to see so many other girls attending the camp. 

“I thought it was cool that half the people at the drone camp were females,” she said. “It gave me a lot of hope.” 

With STEM being a male-dominated field, it is powerful to see so many eager young women participating in this camp. Lydia said she came to the camp because she had been involved with an earlier drone competition hosted at Saint Anselm College in April.

“Science and math have always been my strong suits and I got thrown into the drone competition when I joined Empower Yourself in Brockton,” she said. “I got close with the people in the program. [Drone camp] was a new experience that helped enhance my skills in STEM.” 

Liz Celestin
Liz Celestin, Brockton High School

During her final presentation for the camp, Liz Celestin, a junior at Brockton Highschool said, “I’ve learned a lot not only about the drone but about myself. It’s opened my eyes to other perspectives in discussion with people from vastly different backgrounds from me.” 

Evan Foster
Evan Foster, Newfound Regional High School

While drone technology and the science behind it can sometimes seem intimidating or complicated, this camp helped students learn in a fun and engaging way. Some of the students had no experience with drones going into the camp, while some were looking to expand their existing knowledge. Evan Foster from Newfound Regional High School appreciated the unique opportunity the camp offered. 

“Entry into drone technology can seem like a steep hurdle when you don’t have the opportunity and resources to learn. This camp gave us that opportunity,” Evan said. 

Dr. Huelsman was impressed by the group of students who participated in the camp. 

“We got a group of intelligent, thoughtful, and engaged learners who were motivated to better themselves,” Huelsman said. “While we focus on giving the campers the skills to tackle and talk about problems it is the relationships that they form that may prove to be the greatest benefit, and one perhaps not recognized for many years.”

We look forward to welcoming students back again next summer!